Power of Sports | Community Spotlight - Urban Initiatives

A Fighting Chance

From Michael Jordan to Mike Ditka, Chicago has been host to countless tales of sports legends and icons overcoming adversity. 

But one story often forgotten in the public narrative is the city’s struggle with gang violence and socio-economic disparity throughout its neighborhoods.

From a young age, many Chicago students from all walks of life must confront difficult situations that kids from other cities might never face in their lifetime. 

While the Windy City has been struggling to overcome this difficult moment in its history, Urban Initiatives has been living up to their name. They are stepping up and supporting some of Chicago’s most desperate communities.

Urban Initiatives founded their youth-development program in 2003 in response to the lack of extracurricular activities for children in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood. After seeing the success of investing in sports programs throughout this neighborhood, Urban Initiatives knew they could expand their model.

And expand they did. Actually, “expand” is an understatement.

In just 16 years, Urban Initiatives has worked alongside 57 Chicago Public Schools and currently hosts a lineup of incentive-based curriculum. These programs help provide opportunities for kids to grow and learn, especially in academics, health, social-emotional learning, and leadership development.

We all learn from playing.

Upon arrival, kids are introduced to a long-term, team environment that supports their progress from Player to Captain to Coach. 

And so far, this method is working tremendously.

Fifty-eight percent of obese students who participate in “Work to Play” saw their BMI decrease after one year.

Middle school students who went through the “Take the Lead” program attended school 5 more days on average.

And 78% of Team Captains who developed an “action plan” with their coach increased their GPA the following quarter.

Over time, Urban Initiatives has transformed the lives of hundreds of students living in underserved communities throughout Chicago.

To learn more about Urban Initiatives, visit urbaninitiatives.org.

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